By the Free Press Editorial Team
After a few weeks of debate at USM surrounding free speech, and what that means in today’s political climate, a new concern arises: the freedom of the press. President Trump and his administration have been discrediting news sources since before the inauguration on Jan. 20, and have been openly calling trusted outlets such as the New York Times, NBC and CNN “fake news.”
On Friday, just hours after Trump called the media “the enemy of the people,” reporters from CNN, The New York Times, Politico and the Los Angeles Times were blocked from a White House press briefing, while reporters from Breitbart, Fox News and the Washington Post were allowed inside. President Trump has been publicly at odds with CNN and the New York Times for some time. An American Civil Liberties director called the incident on Friday “yet another disturbing example of the Trump administration’s contempt for the vital role a free press plays in our democracy.”
According to the New York Times, even Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts said the network will join others in protesting the exclusion of certain media outlets, citing a time that CNN spoke on behalf of Fox News when the Obama administration attempted to block Fox News from a round of TV interviews eight years ago.
Established right-wing politician John McCain has publicly criticized Trump for calling the media “the enemy,” saying, “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, many times, adversarial press… without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
In fact, the United States Holocaust Museum reports that gaining control over the free press was one of the first steps that the Third Reich took on its rise to power.
An alarming trend is beginning to show, as the Trump administration continues to attempt to silence those who disagree with or portray the administration in a negative light. What does it mean for Trump to block media access to press briefings because he disagrees with the way they report? What does it mean for Trump, who has been caught in numerous lies since the start of his presidency less than six weeks ago, to be calling news sources fake news?
Many reporters risk and sometimes lose their lives to report news. Reporters often face extreme obstacles in order to report the truth. Freedom of the press is guaranteed under the First Amendment, right there with freedom of speech. While some conservatives have been critical of Trumps actions, others remain silent. Conservatives cannot champion and demand freedom of speech while simultaneously silencing the press. Our champion of free speech, Rep. Larry Lockman, who openly criticized USM student protesters for attempting to bar him from campus, has been silent so far on this issue. Where do the conservatives who just weeks ago at USM were demanding their right to free speech stand? Their silence raises the questions: Who gets to speak? Who is silenced? Who is heard? Who decides?